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Losing my religion: The illustrious tale of a college student’s spirituality

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Losing my religion: The illustrious tale of a college student’s spirituality

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It’s hard to be religious in this world. Faith is such a beautiful thing, but all the escalating violence, retaliation and hate that have spread over the last few months (and years) centered around religious belief has really made me stop and think about my own spirituality and privilege.

I don’t think that being religious would be the first thing that anyone close to me would identify me by, but for a large portion of my life, it was a core part of my personal identity. I was raised Catholic, and I have no remorse for my upbringing in the faith. Sure, I didn’t like going to church as a kid because I thought it was boring, but my dad would just tell me and my siblings to picture the priest as Spongebob and pretend we were just watching two episodes of TV.

It wasn’t until I was in the seventh grade that I considered myself a religious person. I lost my aunt that year after her nine-year battle with breast cancer, and turning to God was something that helped. Praying every night helped. Going to church every weekend helped. So I ran with it.

My first 13 years of Catholic education didn’t come with much of a choice, but I made the conscious decision to attend a Catholic university for college. In fact, one of the main reasons I chose SLU was because it was a Catholic school. I thought that college would be a time when I truly deepened my faith. A time when I proved that not every young adult rebels against their religion when they go to college. And for the first two or so years, I think I may have done that.

Going to 9 p.m. mass at College Church was exciting, so I went pretty much every week without fail. Taking upper-level theology courses where I got to expand my ideas about religion, faith and God were exciting. Having late-night “deep talks” with friends about the existence of God among other existential crises were exciting. It felt like I was thinking the things that book and movie characters thought in college, and I loved it.

But somewhere along the way I realized that maybe, it was possible, that the religion I’d been practicing all these years wasn’t really Catholicism at all. Ok, I know that sounds crazy. I’d done all my Catholic sacraments, and went to Catholic mass weekly and attended Catholic schools my entire life, of course I was practicing Catholicism. But was I?

For me, religion was about finding comfort when I felt lost, and anxious, and scared. It was talking to God at night to rehash the day and think about the other people in my life who needed help. Once I started journaling my second semester in college, I actually found I had no use for nightly prayers, so that practice was out. Going to church was still a comfort, but it was more about the routine. When I was at mass, I mostly just people watched, thought about my week and zoned out. The stuff happening on the altar was so ingrained in my mind from years of the same mass over and over again that it became a little meaningless. As life became more hectic, I just stopped going as much, so there went that practice too.

More than the loss of those practices that I believed tied me to my religion, I started to realize that, actually, I didn’t believe everything the Catholic church was preaching. It’s been a rough time to be a Catholic, there’s no doubt about that, but really what the Catholic church lacks more than anything is a willingness to change. Despite having a really awesome pope right now who is setting us down a slightly better path—shout out to you Papa Frank—a lot of Catholicism is stuck in the past. I also—through the religion classes that SLU required me to take—found that I’m not even sure I believe in God, or at least the God that Catholicism paints.

So now I’m an agnostic, semi-practicing Catholic who has created her own version of a 2000-year-old religion as a coping strategy for crippling anxiety and depression (not aided by a stressful and busy college life). When I do go to church, which still happens relatively often, I like to find small ways to be rebellious. For example, when the whole church recites the Nicene Creed there are two lines that directly contradict my own beliefs: “For us men and our salvation” and “I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.”

In place of the first, I simply erase the word “men,” because it flows better and acknowledges that women exist in the Catholic church (something else they’re not too great at doing). It’s a little petty, but it’s also 2019.

The second is a newer addition to the rebellion, but one that has really helped me deepen my understanding of my own beliefs. The line in question recites the four marks of the church, and I believe in all but one, literally one. I didn’t used to think about it, but as someone who has developed a deep passion for social justice in her formative years, I simply cannot say with confidence that Catholicism is the one, correct religion. How the hell would I know that?

This rebellion is not sticking it to the church. I’m not making a difference. And yet, these small acts, in addition to my innate curiosity to learn about different religions, have helped me come to the conclusion that in reality I’m not a religious person, but rather a spiritual one (that’s allowed, I checked with the big (non-gendered) guy upstairs).

The funny thing is, looking back even when I thought I was in the peak of my “I’m religious” phase, this was true. I gave a speech at a religious retreat in high school about discovering God in my life and a direct quote from that speech reads “I do think it’s important to believe in Something…[Faith] is an ideal, a place, a person, a feeling, a smile. My faith in God is merely a sum of the people in my life whom I love.”

A lot of that has to do with me being the World’s Biggest Theatre Geek™ who likes to allude to “Les Mis,” but faith for me has always been more about love than any of that other stuff we do. Without love, it really would just be a weird cult (well, more of a weird cult than it already is).

Who knows, maybe if I lived in a different century I wouldn’t have lost my faith, but for now this is what I believe. I don’t regret the 17 years of Catholic education I’ve experienced because it challenged me to think for myself, to be curious and to love. Maybe you don’t care about religion, or maybe you’re super passionate about your own. Wherever you fall on the spectrums of religion, faith or spirituality, know that you’re not the only one who’s confused, or skeptical or questioning.

The beautiful thing about faith is that it is subjective. It can be what you need it to be, when you need it to be. That doesn’t mean that it’s a joke or you shouldn’t take it seriously, it just means it was created by humans. Oh that reminds me, “God, please let me get a job after graduation. Amen.”


3 Responses to “Losing my religion: The illustrious tale of a college student’s spirituality”

  1. bob thomas on May 3rd, 2019 7:02 am

    so you’re an apostate? good choice! much approved! enjoy the warm weather!

  2. Ignatius on May 3rd, 2019 11:41 am

    you can always tell students of the liberal arts departments by the total vacancy which occupies the space where most other people have faces. I really don’t have the time to discuss the errors of your value judgements. I suspect that beneath your offensively and vulgarly “faithful” façade there may still be a soul of sorts. You must begin a reading program immediately so that you may understand the crises of our age. Begin with the late Romans, including Boethius, of course. Then you should dip rather extensively into early Medieval. You may skip the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. That is mostly dangerous propaganda. Now that I think of it, you had better skip the Romantics and the Victorians, too. For the contemporary period, you should study some selected comic books. I recommend Batman especially, for he tends to transcend the abysmal society in which he’s found himself. His morality is rather rigid. Also, I rather respect Batman.

  3. John kuykendall on May 3rd, 2019 9:41 pm

    Salutations to the Divinity within you. As Christians we need to let go of the ideology of hell and its hellish thoughts to get serious about the wisdom that is presented to all conscious beings, it does not matter what religion or no religion. We just have to tune in to the collective consciousness that we Christians label Christ, which is our true nature that calls us to know our self. The collective consciousness is made up of every vibration and frequency in one sound, energy or music that we are a part of but not in control of. When we are at a low frequency we think it is normal because everyone is vibrating at a flatter, weaker degree than where we should be. Jesus was outshining everyone vibrating at such an elevated level that everyone became aware of his energy and consciousness. Some who detected it were afraid and others comprehended this consciousness as a part of their own spiritual journey, evolution and enlightenment. To give us momentum Jesus and others on the spiritual path give us love and understanding so we get a taste of the spiritual experience while on our path of spiritual evolution.

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Losing my religion: The illustrious tale of a college student’s spirituality